This is not my first Woodcock of the season but my first ever Woodcock thanks to Paddy Jenks of the Pembrokeshire Ringing Group. This time of year, being the start of the Woodcock season I was keen to understand how they are are caught. After chatting to Paddy at the Pembrokshire bird conference last week end he kindly offered to take me out dazzling one evening to one of his sites in the county, to show me how it is done and how to use the fisherman's landing net .
The conditions were was not ideal because there was no wind, no rain, no cloud cover which all increased the risk of the Woodcock knowing we were there. Although Paddy expected us to see birds he also expected them to be be a bit jittery and the chance to actually catch one would be slim.
The bird was ringed and then we had to age and sex it. The wing feather clearly tells us this bird is a juvenile. The main characteristics are:-
- There was abrasion to the tips of the primaries giving uneven profile. Adults have very little wear.
- The inner 3 or 4 primaries had rounded tips. The adult bird has a more flattened tip with a step between the inner and outer webs.
- The primary covert had rounded tips and the terminal tip colour being the same as the rest of the feather. In the adult the tip of the feather is flattened and its colour is paler going towards grey/white
- The underwing secondary coverts have a pointed tip and there are some signs of barring. In the adult bird the feather is again flat tipped and barring is more distinct.
So this was my first bird aged 3. Sexing is more difficult, plumage is the same but there is a large overlap in measurements. The male tends to have a longer tail and shorter bill so the tail/bill length can also be used, again there can be overlap. No conclusion made to the sex yet but if analysis of the results are proven for one sex or the other I will update the blog.